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Corinth: What's the Cornerstone? (6)

What is the Cornerstone of the Christian faith?

What is Paul's advice to reduce the divisions in the congregations?

Does Paul discuss mutual dependence and equality?

Let's examine the most common contradictions and controversies.


I divide my discussion of 1 Corinthians into 6 sections

This is part 6 of 6, covering Chapters 15-16 Paul addresses debates about the resurrecton and affirms that Jesus rose from the dead and his resurrection is the foundational cornerstone of the faith. Jesus's victory over death is our hope for the future.


Corinth
Elaine Kelly Author in Corinth

1 Corinthians 15:1-11

Paul reminds them of the truth he taught them which made them believe in Jesus. He tells them to hold firmly to this truth. He reminds them of the truth he received and passed on to them:

Jesus died to redeem us, was buried, and rose from the dead. He appeared to Peter, then to the Twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at once, most of whom are still living. Then he appeared to James, a pillar of the church in Jerusalem, then to all the apostles. Last of all, he appeared to me, as to one abnormally born. (v.3-8)

Paul recites an early creed that they likely accepted and memorized as new believers. There is no gospel record of the resurrected Jesus appearing to Peter (Cephas) prior to appearing to the other male disciples (referred to as The Twelve, though Judas Iscariot had committed suicide and not yet been replaced). The gospels all record that the risen Jesus appeared first to the woman disciples. It is possible that the early church decided that since women were not legal witnesses, proving that Jesus rose required a list of legal male witnesses. It is very likely that by the time Paul wrote his letter to the Corinthians, this list of witnesses had become memorized and repeated as a creed affirming the truth of the resurrection and the core beliefs of the early church. I created a chart outlining the sequence of resurrection appearances here.


Paul is 'abnormally born' because he received new life in Jesus far later than the apostles who walked with Jesus during Jesus's ministry. Paul considers himself lesser than other apostles because he formerly persecuted the believers. He calls himself the word of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). At the opening of his letter, addressing rivalry in Corinth, Paul said "Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord" (1 Corinthians 1:31, Jeremiah 9:24, 2 Corinthians 10:17). Paul praises God for God's grace to make him an apostle. Regardless of who told you God's message, we all preach the same message, and this is what you believed.


1 Corinthians 15:12-22 What's the Main Message?

Christ rose from the dead. That is foundational in the message he passed on to them.

Paul refers to the report from Chloe and asks why they are disputing about whether people will be raised from the dead. If no one is ever raised from death, then Christ was never raised, and our message is worthless and your faith is worthless. You are not redeemed, and those who have already died are lost. If our hope in Christ is only for this life on earth, we are a pitiful group.

For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive 1 Corinthians 15:22

Christ really did rise from death. Death comes to all people through Adam, but Christ makes all of us alive again. Paul repeats this symmetry of sin bringing death in the beginning, and Christ bringing life in his letter to the Romans (Romans 5:12-19).


Paul calls himself an Apostle of Christ, brags only about Christ, and says that without Christ's resurrection, our faith is worthless (1 Corinthians 15:8-22, Ephesians 3:7-8). Paul honoured Christ as the origin and foundation of Christianity (Philippians 3:12, Romans 10:9-10, John 3:16). Paul taught that Jesus was God (Philippians 2:6-11, Romans 1:1-6). Jesus himself said he is one with the Father (John 10:30) and John says Jesus is God's word, who existed from the beginning (John 1:1-5).

Who Raised Jesus from death?

Jesus Christ is God's word in the flesh. God took on human form in Jesus. All persons of the Holy Trinity are equal. The Father is not in authority over Jesus, and Jesus is not subordinate. They have one will and purpose.

God the Father raised Jesus (Galatians 1:1, Romans 6:4)

God the Son, Jesus rose of his own power (John 2:19, John 10:18, John 11:25)

God the Spirit raised Jesus (Romans 1:4, Romans 8:11a, 1 Peter 3:18)

God the Holy Trinity (Acts 2:32, Acts 10:40, Acts 13:30, Romans 8:11b)


1 Corinthians 15:23-28 When will we be made alive?

Paul says Christ was the first to rise after death, and at some time in the future, all who believe in Christ will rise from death. In the present age, Christ reigns until everything is under his feet. Then at the end of time, Christ will defeat all enemies and God will reign.


Earlier, Paul said that when completeness comes, we will know everything in full (1 Corinthians 13:9-12). Did completeness come with Jesus? Is the new realm already established? Does completeness come when Christ returns? Has the tribulation begun already, or will Christians be taken up to heaven before the tribulation?


The Christian church has four main views of this future time (1). We may have different views, but as Paul says we are not to boast that one leader knows more than another leader (1 Corinthians 3:21-23). Having different views is not the problem, dissent and discounting the views of others is.


end times chart
Source https://blog.rose-publishing.com/2022/02/04/free-end-times-overview-echart/h

1 Corinthians 15:29-34

Paul points to the inconsistency of the Corinthians, saying there is no life after death, and then baptizing or honouring those who have died. Paul explains that his belief in new life after death is why he is willing to put himself in danger every day. If there is no life after death, we may as well follow the motto of the pagans, 'Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we may die'. But instead, Paul tells them to follow this motto, 'Bad friends will ruin good habits.' Paul calls them to come back to the first truth they learned when they believed, that Jesus rose from the dead.


1 Corinthians 15:35-58 What Kind of Body Will We Have?

Paul clarifies that when you have a new life after death, you do not have the same body. God gives you a new body. Just as there are various kinds of bodies on earth for people and animals, there are other bodies for people in heaven. Paul compares it to a seed that is planted in the ground and grows into something new. In the same way, a body that is planted in the grave will decay, but it will grow into a new life that will be glorious. Jesus compared his own death and resurrection to a kernel of seed buried in the ground, in order to produce growth (John 12:23-25). The first man, Adam, came with a physical body, but Christ came with a spiritual body. Adam came from the earth, but Christ came from heaven. Our earthly bodies decay, so are not suitable for the heavenly bodies that last forever. Paul repeats his message from earlier in the letter that we cannot inherit the kingdom of God through our own human behaviour.

I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable 1 Corinthians 15:50

The body that dies must clothe itself in a body that never dies. We will have new bodies as quickly as an eye blinks. At that time, Paul says the prophecy of Isaiah will come true: 'Death is swallowed in victory' (Isaiah 25:8). Paul thanks God that Jesus gave us victory over death. Paul tells the brothers and sisters to stand strong, hold to the truth of the resurrection, and give themselves fully to living for the Lord.


1 Corinthians 16:1-4 Collections

Paul advises them on how to make a collection for the Lord's people. Paul has been actively collecting for the poor of Jerusalem every where he goes. He explains the leaders in Jerusalem asked him to remember the poor when they approved of his ministry (Galatians 2:10). It seems a contrast to today's collection, which often allocates a larger portion to the building and staff and a smaller portion to benevolence and helping the poor. Paul suggests a collection on the first day of each week so that the funds will already be gathered when Paul arrives. Then he will give letters of introduction to the people they choose to send the financial gift to Jerusalem.


1 Corinthians 16:

Paul explains his plans to stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, then to travel through Macedonia and then to Corinth. Paul is sending Timothy to them and asks that they treat him with care and not contempt.


Apollos

Paul has already acknowledged that the Corinthians follow different leaders, and this rivalry seems to have resulted in permanent divisions (1 Corinthians 1:12-13). Apollos and his followers seem to have stopped communicating with the congregation that is receiving Paul's letter. Paul urges them to go to Apollos and reconcile. Apollos accepted Priscilla's teaching in Ephesus (Acts 18:26) and travelled on to teach in Corinth (Acts 18:27-28, 1 Corinthians 3:6). This letter shows Paul criticizing a vocal group of divisive men that Chloe has reported, likely inhibiting her leadership in her congregation. Perhaps Apollos separated from these divisive men because he disagreed with how they wanted to control what women wore, silenced women, interrupted one another, and showed off their spiritual gifts. Paul instructs them to extend an opportunity to Apollos, perhaps acknowledge they were wrong, and they can make peace.


Be Bold

Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love. 1 Corinthians 16:13-14

Some translations say "quit you like men" (KJV), 'act like men' (ESV, TLB, NASB), or 'live like men' (Phillips). However, other translations show the meaning is to grow up, to be mature in the faith, bold and courageous. Paul is writing to the church of God in Corinth, both women and men. The instruction is for both women and men to be strong, faithful, and brave. These are not male characteristics. Paul is speaking to male and female believers.


Chloe's People

Paul urges his readers to submit to people such as Stephanus, one of the first converts in Achaia. Those delivering this letter to Corinth are Stephanus, Fortunatus and Achaicus, and Paul earlier said that he was writing because he received the report from Chloe's people (1 Corinthians 1:11). It seems Stephanus, Fortunatus and Achaicus are Choloe's people, delivering her letter. Paul says he is happy that Stephanus, Fortunatus and Achaicus brought what he needed, and he thanks the congregation of Corinth, likely those who met in Chloe's household.


After greeting those in Corinth, Paul shares greetings from his friends in Ephesus, especially Aquila and Priscilla who used to live in Corinth. Paul's final words? Love one another above all else.

If anyone does not love the Lord, let that person be cursed! Come, Lord! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. My love to all of you in Christ Jesus. Amen.1 Corinthians 16:22-24

Paul may be referring back to the false teachers who say 'Jesus be cursed' (1 Corinthians 12:3). The central message of this letter is that the greatest spiritual gift is love:

But strive for the greater gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way. If I speak in the tongues of humans and of angels but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers and understand all mysteries and all knowledge and if I have all faith so as to remove mountains but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions and if I hand over my body so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing (1 Corinthians 12:31-13:3 NRSVUE).

Love will conquer the divisions in the church. Love will allow believers to judge for themselves how to dress, how to take turns speaking and listening, teaching and learning. The resurrection of Christ is the foundational cornerstone of the Christian faith. Building on that faith, we can be sober, reverent, peaceable, and godly.


Summary

Paul encourages men and women to stand firm in the faith, be bold and be strong, and most of all, be loving. He affirms mutuality in marriage. He affirms salvation by faith, and that Jesus has made us righteous. He affirms a woman's authority over what she wears while she is publicly leading worship. He tells all the men and women to take turns speaking and silently listening to other speakers. He says the Holy Spirit gives gifts to all believers, men and women, without regard to their gender. CBE International suggests that Paul did not refer to men or women when he told believers to use God's gifts to build up the body of believers.


The church suffers (2) when it discourages and disqualifies half of its members. Maybe we don't have to hold in tension the conflicting ideas that women and men have equal value but unequal roles. Maybe those restricting women could release the bonds and treat women as equals. Maybe women can be freed from gender-based restrictions and feel loved and empowered to use their gifts in whatever way God individually calls them.



Sources:


Commentary on 1 Corinthians

  1. Introduction to 1 Corinthians and discussion on chapters 1-4 on divisions

  2. Post 2 of 6 on 1 Corinthians 5-7 discusses sex and morality in Corinth

  3. Post 3 on 1 Corinthians 8-10 discusses Christian freedom in Corinth.

  4. Post 4 on 1 Corinthians 11 discusses public worship in Corinth.

  5. Post 5 on 1 Corinthians 12-14 discusses Spiritual Gifts in Corinth.

  6. This is post 6 of 6 on 1 Corinthians 15-16 discussing Christ's Resurrection, the Cornerstone of our Faith


 

Elaine Ricker Kelly Author is empowering women with Christian fiction about women in the Bible and early church and Christian blogs about women in leadership, church history and doctrine. Her books include:





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